Florida junior tight end Aaron Hernandez is telling teammates that he's leaving school and heading to the NFL draft.
The Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end, Hernandez caught 68 passes for 850 yards and 6 TDs this season, including a game-high 9 grabs for 111 yards and score against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.
With his size and Florida's scheme not going to change, Hernandez had little to gain by returning for his senior season. In fact, he could have seen a significant loss in numbers with Tim Tebow moving on. One of the knocks on Tebow is that he too often relied on the reliable Hernandez underneath.
Listed at a generous 6-2, 250 pounds Hernandez doesn't have the size to fit every NFL scheme. He lacks the size and strength to be an effective inline blocker, but is a matchup nightmare due to his agility and soft hands. He fits best as an H-back, similar to how the Washington Redskins have used Chris Cooley in the past.
Despite his lack of size and strength, Hernandez had little choice but to take advantage of a position that many feel is among the worst of the draft. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham is a high first round talent, but is, of course, recovering from the knee surgery that ended his senior season before it even began. USC's Anthony McCoy is a terrific blocker in the mold of 2009 first round pick Brandon Pettigrew, but lacks the speed to challenge defenses and is slipping down boards amid concerns about his reliability. McCoy has twice been suspended due to academics.
He projects as a second to third round pick at this point in the draft. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham, who is, of course, recovering from knee surgery, might be the only tight end with a significantly higher grade from most clubs than Hernandez.
The second Florida junior has decided to turn pro early. If all indications via scouts, media and Florida teammates are correct, cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez won't have to wait long for other Gators to join them.
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